How to Lower Your Carbon Footprint at Home

Green energy has been a popular topic in the past several years, and the importance of minimizing your carbon footprint, making energy-efficient choices, and reducing energy consumption have all been emphasized as an important aspect of doing what’s necessary to help the environment. Check out these green upgrades that will help decrease waste and improve your energy efficiency.

1. Energy Consumption

When you start thinking about your carbon footprint, you start to realize that everything you eat, use or live in has an effect on energy consumption. In this discussion, it’s important to understand the difference between energy consumption and energy efficiency. Energy consumption describes the energy that you use to run your home and live your life. Energy efficiency is the way you do it. You can cut down on your energy consumption (and your indirect carbon footprint) by trying to minimize your necessary energy use. Unplug technology if you do not need it, and consider upgrading to a smart thermostat. Home heating and water heating represents over 50 percent of energy consumption, so whatever you can conserve will be a wise investment. You could save energy with about the same comfort level.

2. Energy Efficiency

The next step is to increase your energy efficiency. Energy efficiency is a vital part of the equation, because few people can significantly cut back on their energy consumption without working to make the inefficient parts of their homes more efficient. You may have noticed that when you upgrade to a new appliance (especially if the previous model was 10-15 years old or older), your energy consumption goes down. This is because new appliances are typically more energy efficient than older ones. The same applies to windows, which are a major source of heat transfer in a home. Efficient windows reduce the amount of energy needed to heat or cool your home. Improving the insulation in your home can also help. Insulation slows heat transfer, which makes it a really useful upgrade, especially in areas with hot summers or cold winters. As an added benefit, it is a fairly minimal expense.

3. Home Waste Management

Of course, your carbon footprint also relates quite tightly to the kinds of things you throw out. After all, the more waste you produce, the more energy that waste management organizations have to use to process the waste and transport it to another location. The easiest thing you can do is request to have junk mail no longer delivered to your home, to avoid the wasted energy and materials in production, delivery and waste management. Once you cut down on paper waste, you should also consider setting up a compost unit in your yard to reuse your organic waste. Composting is a great way to get fertile soil for your yard and garden, and it minimizes the number of garbage bags that head to the landfill. While you are at it, take the time to rethink your landscaping. Select native flora that is hardier, and you will save money and water.

4. Green Upgrades

Unless the home improvements you want to make will actively decrease your energy consumption, you might increase your carbon footprint just to put them in place. As with everything else, your goal should be to mitigate the damage. For example, if you want to build that awesome studio on your property, cement is going to be your worst enemy for carbon consumption and emissions. Instead of building a solid concrete foundation (of which cement is a major component), you might choose to place rigid foam structures inside the foundation to decrease the amount of cement needed for the project. You can also think about ways to offset your carbon footprint by installing renewable energy sources. Solar panels are often not as expensive as they used to be, and some of the latest models make it easy to take them with you when you move.

Keeping your carbon footprint down with green upgrades is an excellent idea. With these tips, you can take little or big steps to make a huge difference.

Gary Ashton is a Realtor with The Ashton Real Estate Group of RE/MAX Advantage in Nashville, TN.